'Not ‘boys being boys’, but girls being boys —and god are they good' ★★★★ — Dramsoc and Spotlights present Posh @ Bristol Improv Theatre

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Hannah Green checks out the boisterous and anarchic production of Posh, a production depicting the goings-on of a Bullingdon-esque private boys club at Oxford.

Though Thursday’s snowfall made for a magical trek to the Bristol Improv Theatre, I imagine the elements have been anything but romantic for the production team behind Posh, a riotous, no-holds-barred ride through the highs and lows of an Oxford private club’s ill-fated dinner party.

exploring the dark consequences of a culture of wealth, privilege and toxic masculinity

Originally scheduled at the Pegg Theatre in the SU, after the utterly catastrophic levels of snowfall an alternative venue had to be found, and the evening’s entertainment is made all the more impressive with the knowledge of the sheer amount of hard work and bloody mindedness it has taken to make it happen.

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Facebook / Bristol Dramsoc

Laura Wade’s 2010 play follows the disintegration of a student dining club’s meal in a country pub, exploring the dark consequences of a culture of wealth, privilege and toxic masculinity. The 10 members of the Riot Club, as they term themselves, are fixated on a tradition of recklessness and bravado that, much to their frustration, is becoming increasingly out of place in the 21st century.

the characters are just ridiculous enough not to cut too close to the bone, they’re no caricatures either

Though set in Oxford, and loosely based on the infamous Bullingdon Club, one has to wonder about the implications of staging such a play in Bristol - a university which now officially has a higher privately educated student intake than Cambridge.

several of the all-male club members are played by women, [their] behaviour takes on new meaning and new subtleties

Though the characters are just ridiculous enough not to cut too close to the bone, they’re no caricatures either, and there is strange feeling that perhaps one has met them before - that this breed is very much alive and kicking, in a halls near you.

The choice of casting is interesting, purely from a gender perspective, as several of the all-male club members are played by women. Filtered through the lens of the female body, such behaviour takes on new meaning and new subtleties, forcing us to look again at what we expect and accept from our young men.

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Facebook / Bristol Dramsoc

These are not ‘boys being boys’, they’re girls being boys, and God are they good. Though having at least ten actors on stage for the majority of the performance means that from time to time, some characters are overshadowed somewhat, the female members of the Riot Club consistently shine.

Fred Light holds the audience spellbound ... reciting verse in a beautiful and oddly menacing fashion

The first act is tense and well-paced, establishing the nature of the group itself and various petty grievances within it. Directors Anna Fenton-Garvey and Asha Osbourne-Grinter do a great job of handling the multiple rivalries and power plays between members, in particular the squabbling between Guy Bellingfield (played convincingly neurotically by Laura Marcus) and Phoebe Taylor’s brilliant Dimitri Mitropoulous as they vie for the club presidency.

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Facebook / Bristol Dramsoc

Fred Light holds the audience spellbound as his Hugo Fraser-Tyrwhitt prowls the stage reciting verse in a beautiful and oddly menacing fashion, with a heady mix of upper-class flamboyance and anarchic threat.

provoking, unnerving and riotously brilliant

In the second act, Mimi Paltridge gives an excellent performance as Alistair Ryle, whose sheer persistence and venomous anger carries the performance through some moments when the momentum seems to lag a little.

Though the claustrophobic atmosphere steadily builds, helped in part by the intimacy of the venue (in which the set sits remarkably well, considering it was designed for the Pegg), at times it feels a little unsure, as if actors are perhaps waiting for cues that never came. However, for the most part the tension is believably maintained, and when the fight scene rolls around it seems sickeningly inevitable.

this performance sensitively handles the instability of the carefully curated identity of the male elite

Posh is provoking, unnerving and riotously brilliant - this production brings out the intricacies of each character through careful directing and the sheer talent of the actors, which ensures it stays hideously believable rather than descending into full-on farce - a fine line when dealing with characters such as these.

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Facebook / Bristol Dramsoc

More than anything, this performance sensitively handles the instability of the carefully curated identity of the male elite, whose foothold in today’s society, though slipping, remains tangible.

★★★★

The final performance of Posh is tonight (3rd March). Event here


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